On April 9th, 2017 I was privileged to attend Lars Vogt‘s recital of Bach’s Goldberg variations at Alice Tully Hall in New York.
I love the Aria that begins and closes the Variations, but I do not know everything in between. This was over an hour of pianistic embroidery, uniquely interpreted by each artist who plays it. I myself am partial to Andras Schiff.
Lars Vogt was a clean and disciplined performer. His feet did not touch pedal during the entire performance, leaving him squirming at times to find somewhere to put them. His crisp articulation never seemed mechanical, because of his exquisite ornamentals and an almost surreal ability to separate voices in a constantly changing weave.
Overall, this recital was quintessential, crystalline Baroque, with a distinctly masculine strength. No simpering beauty here! It was what the Alice Tully crowd wanted, because Mr. Vogt drew cheers afterwards.
New York Audience
I don’t have much to say about the perfection of Vogt’s performance, but the same can not be said of his audience. I recall the gentleman, if I dare use that term, who used his iPhone flashlight to read his program. He shone that light into the corner of my eye until I saw spots. And the lady sat next to him, who pencilled scratchily on sheet music through the entire performance. If this is the cultural elite of New York, you know what you can do with it.
My experience of Lars Vogt’s Alice Tully audience was par for the New York classical audience in general. Who among us has not been victim of an American entrepreneur who, at lights down, leaps from behind to snare a vacant seat in front of us? Or the young woman who helped herself to an empty seat next to me and illicitly recorded video of Khatia Buniatishvili while the glare from her phone distracted everyone around her?
We all want to play New York
In the country of my birth, such behavior would result in the offender being hissed into submission. Or perhaps, he would be beaten by rolled up umbrellas wielded by old ladies. In an eastern European country that I recently visited, the audiences were so respectful that I was embarrassed even to raise my camera. But New York? Ah, New York! I can’t say anything, because we all want to play New York (including your reviewer, if truth be told).
You want an encore?
When the audience called for an encore, Lars Vogt picked up the sheet music from the piano and held it up to us. I played the entire Goldberg Variations with no intermission and you want an encore? I had to agree with him. What can surpass 75 minutes of such bejeweled treasure?
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